Migraine Genes: X Marks the Spot

On June 4, 2012 it was announced that a Migraine related region has been located on the X chromosomes of Migraineurs taking part in a gene mapping study in a remote island called Norfolk Island. This population has a traceable, largely closed gene pool and a greater than average ratio of Migraine patients.

Those who took High School genetics will remember that males carry an X and Y chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes.

It’s been long suspected that there might be a genetic link to be found on the X chromosome of Migraineurs that might account for the unusual ratio of female to male Migraineurs in the general population.

In this case, the X chromosome is thought to possibly contain more than one related Migraine gene, however this news particularly points to a gene that plays a role in the regulation of iron in the brain.

Finding these genetic links to Migraine is especially important because we don’t entirely understand the pathophysiology of Migraine and there have been precious few studies to help us figure it out. Learning more about how and why Migraine attacks occur will help researchers find or design specially targeted treatments for those of us who suffer Migraine. It may also be the smoking gun we need to finally turn Migraine disease into something we can diagnose by testing for something instead of simply excluding everything else we can think of to reach a diagnosis. This is called a diagnosis of exclusion and is currently the only way physicians have to determine if a patient truly suffers from Migraine disease.

Moreover, the more closely we can target a treatment, the fewer side effects patients will likely suffer, and more importantly, the more likely we are to create a treatment that actually works.

Pharmaceutical and device companies do not typically focus their efforts on the pathophysiology of a disease. Their dollars and research uses existing information to help them develop medicines and treatments. In fifty years, only one unique drug targeting Migraine has ever been developed. All the rest of our drugs are either used off-label or are considered “me too” drugs — slightly different copies of another drug.

This DNA research was done by Griffiths University. Led by Professor Lyn Griffiths, researchers looked at a very specific population who seemed made to order for this study. About 80% of the inhabitants of Norfolk Island trace their pedigrees directly to a single, historic event — the mutiny on the Bounty. The greatly increased ratio of Migraineurs to non-Migraineurs coupled with the close gene pool made this an ideal place to research Migraine.

Because some genes for autoimmunity have also been traced to X chromosomes, it was found that men who carry an extra X chromosome have a much greater chance to develop autoimmunity. Those few individuals I’ve talked to in the past who carry this genetic error suffered serious autoimmune disease, but also suffered serious Migraine problems. Hmmm.

In 2011 the National Institutes of Health designated merely .07 of 1% of their funding to headache disorders across the board and was completely left off the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMR). Not only is headache and Migraine considered to be the hallmark symptoms of traumatic brain injury in veterans, headache and Migraine particularly is considered to be an enormous drain on society costing us more money than epilepsy, asthma and ovarian cancer – combined. With over 100 different headache disorders throughout which this funding must be spread, it doesn’t take a genius to do the math.

With the obviously imbalanced and lack of public research dollars going to Migraine and headache disorders, it is my personal prayer that these findings might help generate interest once again in seeking the clues to the pathophysiology of our disease and the chain reaction of benefits in diagnosis and treatment those findings would result.

Do you want to help spread the word of the importance of this research and a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill? Please share this post on your facebook or other social media platforms.

Here are some tweets you can share on twitter:

  1. Gene discovery highlights the need for research into pathophysiology of #Migraine #NMAM #NMAMTC @TomHarkin
  2. YOU can make a difference for #Migraine and #headache by signing this petition: http://bit.ly/AAbEgn #NMAM #NMAMTC Plz RT!
  3. #Migraine and #Headache disorders cost society more $ than #epilepsy #asthma #ovariancancer combined #NMAM #NMAMTC
  4. #Migraine #headache funding was only 7/100 of 1% of the @NIHForHealth 2011 budget #NMAM #NMAMTC @AHDA
  5. Dept of Defense Congressionally Directed Med Research Prog CDMR 2012 left out #Migraine & #TBI #NMAM #NMAMTC @Daniel_Inouye
  6. We NEED a congressional hearing on #Migraine and #headache disorders http://bit.ly/AAbEgn #NMAM #NMAMTC @SenatorHarkin
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
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